A new bipartisan bill, the “Closing the Bump Stock Loophole Act,” is making its way through Congress over the urgent protests of top gun rights watchdogs, and the National Rifle Association (NRA).
The bill – jointly introduced by Reps Brian Fitzpatrick, Dan Kildez, Dina Titus, and Dave Trott – is an attempt at a legislative response to the Las Vegas shooting last month, in which 59 were killed and over 500 injured in the deadliest mass shooting in American history. The bill would regulate any device that can increase firing rate as requiring a machine gun license under the National Firearms Act.
Gun rights advocates warn that the bill is so poorly written that it’s prohibitions can just as easily apply to entire classes of firearms, not just bump stocks. The bill would add, “reciprocating stock, or any other device which is designed to accelerate substantially the rate of fire of a semiautomatic weapon” to the list of the highly regulated firearms of the National Firearms Act, which currently is regulating machine guns, short-barreled rifles or shotguns, silencers, and other firearms.
The bill however does not define what a “reciprocating stock” actually is, nor does it sets any standards for what constitutes a substantial increase to the rate of fire of a semi-automatic weapon. The bill would also give those who already own these devices covered under the new regulations a year to comply with them by completing all the background checks, registration, and pay their tax stamps required by the National Firearms Act. Those who are caught with unregistered devices after that point would then be subject to federal prosecution.
Defending his bill, Rep. Fitzpatrick said, “this bipartisan legislation will block the availability of these and other dangerous devices, and demonstrates a serious bipartisan commitment to keeping our communities safe.” He continued, “we must do everything in our power to prevent the kind of evil we see in horrifying incidents like the Las Vegas shootings, and resolve as a nation to confront this evil through meaningful, bipartisan legislative action and an ongoing commitment to keep our communities safe from gun violence.”
Representative Kildee said that the bill would not prevent all gun deaths but would allow law enforcement to further control the availability of bump-fire stocks and other devices designed to increase a semi-automatic firearm’s rate of fire.
“This bill will not prevent all senseless gun deaths—rather, it seeks to address one dangerous loophole in existing law that allows anyone to acquire a bump stock, no questions asked,” Kildee had said. “This bipartisan legislation will give law enforcement the ability to regulate bump stocks and keep them out of the hands of criminals and violent people. Such deadly devices that can turn firearms into fully automatic machine guns have no place on America’s streets.”
The bump-fire stocks do not turn the semi-automatic firearms into fully automatic firearms. A fully automatic firearm would continue to fire so long as the trigger is pressed, whereas a semi-automatic firearm will only fire once each time the trigger is depressed. Instead, the bump-fire stocks use the recoil of the firearm to significantly increase how quickly the shooter can pull the trigger.
“The NRA opposes the overly broad legislation being offered by Congressman Fitzpatrick, which is not limited to bump stocks and includes many commonly owned firearm accessories,” Jennifer Baker, a spokesperson for the NRA said.
“The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) approved the manufacture and sale of bump-fire devices during the Obama administration,” Baker further added. “The NRA has called for the ATF to review its decision and determine whether these devices should be regulated differently. Despite the false assertions being made by anti-gun politicians and lobbyists, this is within ATF’s regulatory authority.”